The Red Flags of dysfunction

Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)

After reading Donna’s newest book on the 10 Red Flags of spotting psychopaths, I got to thinking that there are Red Flags in our own lives that we should also take notice of and avoid.

When we first start the “journey toward healing,” and I do think it is a journey, not a destination, we have to learn the things about ourselves that we need to change in order to live a healthy life, one free of psychopaths and other abusers. Our journey started out in learning the behavior of the psychopaths and abusers so we could spot these people who will not change their bad behavior, but it ends up being learning about ourselves, and how our own behavior contributed to the psychopath’s ability to continue to abuse us.

The Red Flags we can see in people who are not healthy, who are not going to “play nice,” are absolutely necessary to building a new life. (Thank you Donna for your newest book!) But we also need to learn the Red Flags of dysfunctional behavior in ourselves.

The new rules

If we want to become healthy, here are rules that I think we need to make for ourselves.

1. I will not continue to have contact with people who are abusive.

I will maintain NO CONTACT with people who have been abusive to me and do not show any remorse for this behavior. (The exception to this is if I am required by law to co-parent or otherwise maintain minimal contact.)

2. I will not behave in dishonest ways.

I will live an honest life in all ways, dealing with others as I would that they would deal with me. I will maintain the “do right” rule. If it is not “right” I will not do it.

3. I will not live in fantasy.

I will not live in the FANTASY of thinking I can control situations or other people that are out of my control. I will “let go and let God/the Universe” run the universe. I will not live in the fantasy of thinking that if I just try harder I can “fix” anything.

4. I will not be irresponsible.

I will assume responsibility for myself and those things that are my responsibility. I will support myself and my children financially and emotionally, doing healthy things and taking care of those things that are my responsibility. These may include stopping some bad habits such as alcohol and other substances, even too much or too little food or exercise.

5. I will not enable/rescue others.

This means that I will not assume responsibility for the things that others should be responsible for, even if they think I should be responsible for supporting them, or doing for them what they should and can do for themselves. The only “legitimate” rescue is to drag an unconscious person from a burning building.

6. I will not persecute others.

I will not punish others for not doing what I think is what they should do, or for living their lives in a way that brings problems upon themselves.

7. I will not be a volunteer victim.

I will not engage myself in behaviors or with dishonest or irresponsible people that will cause me to be victimized.

I will recognize that in the past I have done things that caused me to be vulnerable to being victimized by others. Because I continued to allow others to abuse me (whatever my excuses were), I know now that I must take responsibility for myself. Now that I KNOW better I must DO better.

Changing our own behavior

When I find myself “back sliding” and in a situation that is causing me distress, I must say to myself “STOP,” and then see what it is that is causing this distress in my feelings and in my life. Then I must take corrective action in the situation and change my own behavior to stop the distress.

Problems come up in our lives every day that we must solve, but if we do the best we can to live our lives honestly and responsibly, taking responsibility for those things that are our responsibility, the problems are pretty well minimized and there is little or no drama in our lives.

There may be someone in our lives that we can’t avoid, a co-worker or a neighbor who is hateful or problematic, but we can control our reaction to their behavior even though we can’t control them. We may even have to find another job, or accept that the one we have is not an ideal one, but we can tolerate it by changing our own attitude.

Life won’t always be a bowl of cherries; there will be problems. But as long as we live by the “do right” rule, and do what we know is the right way to live, the majority of the drama will be out of our lives. We will be less stressed out realizing that we are only in control of our own selves.

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58 Comments on "The Red Flags of dysfunction"

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“You know as crazy as it sounds, I am beginning to like this single life more and more even though I had a husband I loved.”

I’m a firm believer in the “silver lining”. Maybe your ex-spath BF helped (unintentionally, of course) you recover from the grief of losing your husband.

Even in my darkest moments, I’ve always found something positive from every experience. Without that ability I’m not sure I’d be sane right now.

Dear Oxy, thank you for your article! It gives a wonderful compass and directs towards ACTION and what we can do, not us being victims!

Dear Clair, I can so relate to you, for the not realizing the dysfunction in your family. As a child it was vital NOT to see it but as adult one has other tools, and you can educate the inner child that you do NOT need to act as a child anymore. Maybe the fact that both your parents were dead gave you the inner permission to work on it?

OxD, I have no problem being “single.” Although the exspath was physically present, he was chronically unavailable on any level. I was essentially living with a piece of marble that would issue noises out of the hole in its face, sometimes. Otherwise, there was nothing else there.

And… clarify: for ME, being “single” does not translate into being “available.” BLECH!!!!!!! No thank you! 😀

Truthspeak, yea I know what you mean…being single is pretty good actually, and even though I enjoyed being married when my husband was alive, I definitely came to appreciate HIM when I was dating the psychopath.

Dating the psychopath though I don’t think helped me really with grief over my husband’s loss, I think it just DISTRACTED me for a while. I think after the break up with the P I had TWO relationships to grieve. It will be 8 years this July though since my husband’s death and nearly 6 years since the relationship with the P BF so I think I’m pretty well “over” the grief in both of them and have come to acceptance. I know the reason I was vulnerable to the BF was the loneliness I felt after my husband’s death. I felt I would never be able to have another relationship…but I came to find out that the relationship I truly lacked was with MYSELF…and now that I have a relationship with myself, I am not lonely being “single.” Not LOOKING for a relationship. That’s the best part…I am content with myself. If I were to find a man who was also content with himself as well as someone I had something in common with, etc. then I might consider another relationship, but I’m not hungry for that. I don’t feel incomplete without that if that makes any sense.

Thank you, Ana. Recovering from a SP = uncrumpling our bodies & souls.

Thank you libelle.
“Maybe the fact that both your parents were dead gave you the inner permission to work on it?”
I don’t really think it was that, but rather with both of them dead, the artificial constructs which they forced upon my life began to crumble and the truth emerged. And once the truth emerged, they weren’t there to dispute the truth, so the truth stood. Basically, my parents brainwashed & mind controlled me, so once the brain washers-mind controllers were gone, they weren’t there to twist my perception of reality, so I could see, trust & accept the truth. I suppose this is the freedom of NC.

rebsusane, welcome to Love Fraud. Hang in there, keep fighting & post here because it really helps. Yes, we are walking this journey with you.

LOL, Truthspeak:
“I was essentially living with a piece of marble that would issue noises out of the hole in its face, sometimes”

Love this, Oxy:
“I came to find out that the relationship I truly lacked was with MYSELF”and now that I have a relationship with myself, I am not lonely being “single.”
Gosh, it is SOOOO true.

I love the freedom of being single.

Once again, synchronicity with the current Lovefraud topic. I came into contact through a mutual friend with someone – Toxic Person A – from my past who is HIGHLY toxic. I need to continue the relationship with Person B because we both belong to the same organization. So had to come clean with setting some boundaries for my relationship to continue with Person B. It felt empowering to set the boundaries. We’ll see how it goes from this point forward.

It was unbelievable to me that Toxic Person A had entered my life again and that there could be the potential for further damages. 6 years ago, I did some major re-arranging of my life so I’d avoid any contact with Toxic Person A. I’ll be monitoring my relationship with Person B, and if it appears that Toxic Person A is plying her nasty trade, I’ll need to find another way to get my needs met without either Persons A or B in my life. Perhaps the Universe brought this person into my life again to show me how to set boundaries and to be 100% supportive to myself with Toxic People aka sociopaths. The first time Toxic Person A was in my life, in order to be set free from her, I made some major re-arrangements in my life so I’d not need to see her again.

In setting the boundaries with Person B, I was in a quandry because to some it might appear that I was ‘gossiping’. I realized that my truth needed to come out if there was to be a ‘clean’ relationship with Person B. She is also a completely innocent party who happens to have daily contact with the toxic one.. Am still squirming a bit about laying it all on the line plus setting very specific boundaries. As Joyce’s rules go, victimizing myself is no longer an option. Find myself wondering: will the true colors of Toxic Person A be revealed to Person B? Will she, too, discover the toxic nature of Person B? Others have. Time will tell.

These new red flags from Joyce are great. And, yes, there is a lot to be said for being single. There is also a lot to be said for being in a great relationship with the opposite sex as well as having great friendships with anyone. Even friends can be S/Ps!! This is why staying in contact with Lovefraud is so healthy for us…it can help us avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

Emi, indeed “friends” can turn out to fit the profile. Sounds like you’ve got some strong self-confidence working in your favor. Too bad you can’t bottle it and market it! LOL!!!

Good for you, Emi!

Emi, you sound very balanced and wise! I love your thinking. I don’t think I’ve seen you post before, and I don’t know your story, but your tone is very compelling. Good for you!


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